What is Massage Cupping and How Does It Work?

April 13, 2023

Massage cupping, also known as dynamic cupping, gliding cupping, and moving cupping, is a form of alternative therapy that involves placing cups on your skin to create suction. This suction is believed to improve the flow of energy in your body and facilitate the healing process (Healthline) . It can be a complementary addition to your regular massage sessions or used as a standalone treatment.

During a massage cupping session, a practitioner places special cups made of glass, silicone, or plastic on various parts of your body. The cups are then suctioned onto your skin for short periods, which may vary depending on your preferences and the therapist’s recommendations. This can result in the appearance of circular bruises or discoloration, but these marks are temporary and typically fade within a few days (WebMD) .

You may choose to try massage cupping as a way to alleviate sore muscles, reduce inflammation, and promote relaxation. It has also been used for other conditions such as back and neck pain, skin diseases, and migraines (Harvard Health) . As with any alternative treatment, it is important to consult with a qualified therapist and discuss your individual needs and concerns before beginning a massage cupping session.

Origins of Massage Cupping

woman on a massage table getting a cupping massageThe practice of massage cupping has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Its origins can be traced to various ancient cultures, including Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern civilizations. It’s worth exploring how this therapeutic technique has endured through the ages and become a popular treatment in today’s wellness landscape.

One of the earliest recorded references to cupping therapy is found in Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text from 1550 B.C. (Healthline). However, this healing system has been used widely in other ancient cultures as well, including the Chinese and Unani medical traditions(WebMD).

Throughout history, cupping has been utilized for various purposes, from drawing out toxins to easing pain and discomfort. The modern practice of massage cupping incorporates similar principles, using suction to promote blood circulation, facilitate muscle relaxation, and provide numerous other health benefits.

One notable figure who contributed to the development of massage cupping was the Taoist herbalist Ge Hong, who lived between 281 A.D. and 341 A.D. in China(Institute for Integrative Healthcare). His work helped shape and spread the technique throughout Asia, and eventually, the rest of the world.

When the 2016 Olympic Games showcased athletes with visible signs from cupping therapy, the ancient technique received renewed interest on an international scale(Verywell Health). Today, massage cupping is gaining traction in countries like the United States for its noninvasive nature and potential health benefits.

Benefits of Massage Cupping

Pain Relief

Massage cupping can provide pain relief for a variety of conditions. By creating suction on your skin, cupping therapy helps to reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, and relax your muscles. This can lead to a decrease in pain, particularly for conditions like arthritis, back pain, neck pain, and knee pain Cleveland Clinic.


When you undergo massage cupping, you may also find yourself incredibly relaxed. The gentle pressure created by the suction cups can help to ease muscle tension and achieve a calming effect on your body Medical News Today. This makes massage cupping an excellent option for anyone seeking a relaxing form of alternative therapy.


Massage cupping can contribute to the removal of toxins and waste from your body. The therapy encourages your body to activate its immune system and increase lymphatic drainage, which ultimately helps detoxify your body Medical News Today.

Improving Circulation

Improved circulation is another key benefit of massage cupping. By creating suction, cupping therapy improves blood flow to your muscles and surrounding tissue Medical News Today. This increased blood flow can promote healing, enhance recovery after exercise, and help maintain overall wellness.

Types of Cups and Cupping Techniques

In massage cupping, the types of cups and techniques used can vary. This section will highlight three popular types of cups: silicone, glass, and plastic. Each type comes with its own unique characteristics and benefits.

Silicone Cups

  • Silicone cups are made from flexible and durable material, which allows for easy manipulation during the massage process. They typically do not require the use of fire or a pump to create suction, as the therapist can simply squeeze the cup to create the desired amount of suction.
  • Since silicone cups are more malleable, they are ideal for use on curved or uneven body surfaces, providing a versatile and comfortable cupping experience for you.

Glass Cups

  • Glass cups are made from thick and heat-resistant glass, which provides a smooth, hygienic surface. They are often used in traditional Chinese medicine and require a flame to generate the necessary suction, making them less flexible than silicone cups.
  • Despite their rigidity, glass cups offer precision and a strong suction force, making them ideal for techniques that require deeper and more targeted muscle work.
  • Since silicone cups are more malleable, they are ideal for use on curved or uneven body surfaces, providing a versatile and comfortable cupping experience for you.

Plastic Cups

  • Plastic cups are another popular choice in massage cupping therapy. They are usually made from a durable and simple-to-clean material, which is ideal for maintaining a hygienic environment.
  • Plastic cups often use a manual or electrical pump to create suction, allowing for easy control of the intensity. They are a convenient option for massage therapists who prefer not to use flames during the session.
  • Despite their rigidity, glass cups offer precision and a strong suction force, making them ideal for techniques that require deeper and more targeted muscle work.
  • Since silicone cups are more malleable, they are ideal for use on curved or uneven body surfaces, providing a versatile and comfortable cupping experience for you.

Selecting the right type of cups and techniques for your needs is essential to ensure a successful and enjoyable massage cupping experience. Your massage therapist can help you determine which option is best for you based on your preferences and specific therapy goals.

RockTape and Cupping

In your pursuit of understanding massage cupping, it’s essential to explore some popular tools and techniques in the market today. One such product is the RockTape’s RockPods, a myofascial cupping set designed for versatile and efficient use during cupping therapy sessions.

RockTape RockPods

We are introducing you to RockTape RockPods, a set of silicone pods that allows practitioners to grab, pull, and push fascia, treating mobility and movement dysfunctions effectively. The set contains eight silicone pods in total, split between four large and four small cups.

The unique design of RockPods makes them easy to use, offering a convenient alternative to traditional glass or plastic cups. Some of their key features include:

  • Strong suction for effective myofascial manipulation
  • Easy-to-grip design for precise control during treatments
  • Reusable and easy to clean, providing a hassle-free experience
  • Comes with a portable carrying case for convenient storage

As you explore massage RockPod cupping and RockTape, their versatility allows you to apply various techniques such as stationary, running, or flash cupping. Achieve desired outcomes by combining these methods with other modalities like manual therapy, stretching, and exercise. We also have an in-depth blog where you can learn more about the differences between RockTape vs KT Tape.

Remember, always consult with a certified cupping therapist before beginning any treatments. They can guide you in the proper application of RockTape RockPods, helping you maximize the benefits of massage cupping without risking any negative side effects or discomfort.

Common Applications

Massage cupping is a versatile therapy that can address a wide array of issues. In this section, we’ll explore how it can be applied to sports injuries, chronic pain management, and general wellness and relaxation.

Sports Injuries

massage therapist performing deep tissue massageFor athletes, massage cupping can be particularly beneficial in treating and managing sports injuries. By promoting increased blood flow and relieving muscle tension, cupping can help speed up recovery and reduce inflammation in the affected areas (Healthline) . This makes it a useful option for diminishing pain and enhancing your body’s natural healing processes which is covered in detail in our blog What is Sports Massage.

Chronic Pain

People suffering from chronic pain can also benefit from massage cupping. The gentle suction created by cupping lifts and separates the layers of tissue, helping to release any tightness or adhesions that may be contributing to your discomfort (WebMD). By targeting specific areas of concern, you may find relief from long-standing pain and increased ease in your daily activities.

Wellness and Relaxation

person getting a back massageBeyond injury recovery and pain relief, massage cupping offers general wellness and relaxation benefits for everyone. It is often described as the inverse of massage, using suction instead of pressure to generate a soothing and relieving sensation (Koshas). This light touch can help you unwind and find much-needed relaxation in today’s fast-paced world. Furthermore, by encouraging blood flow and promoting cell repair, cupping can help maintain the overall health of your muscles and soft tissues.

As you can see, massage cupping is a versatile technique that holds a range of applications from sports injury recovery to chronic pain relief to overall relaxation. With its various benefits, it’s no wonder that this ancient therapy has made its way into modern healthcare practices.

Precautions and Contraindications

As you explore the world of massage cupping, it’s essential to be aware of the precautions and contraindications to ensure a safe and effective treatment.

Skin Conditions and Injuries

If you have any skin conditions, such as allergies, open wounds, or ulcerated sores, it’s advised to avoid cupping therapy in those areas (The Cupping Revolution). Additionally, if you experience mild discomfort, burns, or bruises during treatment, inform your therapist immediately. These minor side effects are generally normal, but they should not be severe or long-lasting (WebMD).


During pregnancy, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider before undergoing any form of therapy, including massage cupping. Certain pressure points or treatment areas might be unsuitable, so discussing your specific needs and concerns with your therapist and healthcare provider is crucial.


Anticoagulant Medications

If you are taking anticoagulant medications, it’s important to inform your therapist before receiving cupping therapy. These medications can increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in the cupped areas, so it’s necessary to discuss any risks or precautions with your healthcare provider and massage therapist.

By understanding these precautions and contraindications, you can make informed decisions about your massage cupping treatment and ensure a safe and therapeutic experience.

Finding a Qualified Practitioner

When it comes to massage cupping, it is essential to find a qualified practitioner to ensure safe and effective treatment. This section will guide you through the process.

Consulting your Physician

Before starting massage cupping, it’s a good idea to consult your physician. They can provide you with insights into whether cupping therapy is suitable for your specific health concerns and also recommend qualified practitioners in your area.

Your doctor may also offer guidance regarding any necessary precautions and inform you of potential contraindications. Always prioritize your health and safety by involving a trusted health professional in your decision-making process.

Researching Qualified Practitioners

There are a few resources that can help you find qualified massage cupping practitioners near you. One such resource is the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). They provide a Practitioner search engine to help you locate certified Diplomates in your area.

You can also use the International Cupping Therapy Association’s (ICTA) database to find a list of professional certified cupping therapists near you. These practitioners are trained to provide safe, effective, and high-quality cupping treatments with your long-term health goals in mind.

Checking Reviews and Testimonials

Once you have a list of potential practitioners, take the time to research their reputation online. Look for reviews and testimonials from previous clients to get a sense of their expertise, professionalism, and the results they have achieved with massage cupping. This information can be invaluable in helping you choose the right practitioner for your needs.

A Quick Massage Cupping Recap

Massage cupping is a unique therapy that combines the benefits of traditional cupping with massage techniques. By applying special cups with suction to your skin, Verywell Health explains that it helps to increase blood circulation, relieve muscle tension, and promote cell repair.

During the treatment, your therapist may use various types of cupping methods, including dry cupping, flash cupping, or even moving the cups around, as described by Cleveland Clinic. Remember to inform your therapist about any health conditions or preferences beforehand, to ensure the best possible experience.

Some potential benefits you might enjoy from massage cupping include pain relief, relaxation, and a reduction in inflammation. However, it is essential to know that individual results may vary and that this therapy may not be suited for everyone.

Lastly, don’t be surprised if you notice dark marks on your skin after the treatment. These are temporary and typically fade within a few days. They are a result of the suction process used during the therapy and should not be cause for concern.

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